Larnaka, Cyprus, July 14, 2012—Shining as bright as the stars above in the crystal-clear Cyprus sky and the lights illuminating the Larnaka center court Saturday, Lithuania’s Ieva Dumbauskaite and Monika Povilaityte held of another comeback effort by Poland’s defending champions Karolina Baran/Katarzyna Kociolek to earn the women’s gold medal at the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH Youth World Championships, the 11th annual event for players under 19, which is being held through Saturday in a special purpose-built complex featuring the stadium center court at Finikoudes Beach.
The four day, double gender event was held for the first time in Cyprus as the world’s best young women’s teams competed since Wednesday under cloudless skies, searing sunshine, intense humidity and the near-motionless gentleness of the Mediterranean Sea.
In the women’s intense gold medal match Saturday against two teams that know each other well, Lithuania’s 18th-seeded Dumbauskaite/Povilaityte reversed a close pool play loss from earlier this week to a two-set gold medal victory over Poland’s second-seeded defending FIVB SWATCH Youth World Champions Baran/Kociolek, 21-18, 22-20 in a thrilling 39-minute Larnaka stadium center court match.
With 31 qualified teams starting women’s play in the double-gender event, a total of 63 teams from 34 countries were in Cyprus this week at the 2012 FIVB SWATCH Youth World Championships.
Lithuania’s Dumbauskaite/Povilaityte ended their gold medal march with a 7-1 won-loss record in Larnaka while Poland’s silver medalists Baran/Kociolek end their Cyprus journey with a 6-1 final record with their only loss coming in the final women’s match of the tournament.
Saturday’s women’s medal matches were played under the lights on another in the string of stirring summer nights in front of another appreciative and welcoming packed Larnaka stadium center court.
Following the gold medal finale, Poland now has earned four women’s medals and seven final four finishes which trails only Germany’s 10 final fours in the event’s history. Lithuania earned its first women’s medal and gold medal and final four finish in the history of the growing event.
In another tight battle in Larnaka for the bronze medal, Russia’s 12th-seeded Ksenia Dabizha/Anna Gorbunova came back after losing the first set to defeat Germany’s seventh-seeded Sandra Ittlinger/Yanina Weiland, 19-21, 21-17 and 15-9 in a 53 minute bronze medal match.
In a pool play match on Thursday, Poland’s Baran/Kociolek defeated Lithuania’s Dumbauskaite/Povilaityte in two overtime sets, 22-20, 22-20 but in Saturday’s gold medal finale, the Lithuanians played much more relaxed and with more composure to unseat the reigning champions from Poland. In the first set of the gold medal match, Lithauania’s Dumbauskaite/Povilaityte stayed just enough ahead in a close set to pull away at the end for a 21-18 margin.
In what would be the deciding second set, Poland’s Baran/Kociolek jumped out to a quick 5-1 but Lithuania’s Dumbauskaite/Povilaityte called a time out, regrouped, relaxed and edged their way back into the set, eventually knotting up the score at 12-12 during a run of outscoring Poland’s Baran/Kociolek, 5-1 to take a 14-12 lead. After Poland tied the score again at 15-15, Lithuania pulled steadily away to match point at 20-18 but the defending champions didn’t quit and tied the score at 20-20 before Lithauania scored the final two points of the set and match, first on a cross-court kill by Povilaityte and then an ace serve down the middle also by Povilaityte.
Following their gold medal victory, an emotionally joyous Dumbauskaite commented, “We weren’t as nervous this time as we were when we played them during pool play. The difference between our loss in pool play and our victory in the gold medal match was our reception was much better and overall we did everything better. In the second set they jumped on us but we calmed things down by calling a time out. It is an honor to be the first women’s team to win a gold medal for Lithuania in the FIVB SWATCH Youth World Championships.”
Changing tactics after losing a close first set to Germany in the bronze medal battle, Russia’s Dabizha/Gorbunova, who won a three-set match in the semifinals as well, they stayed on top throughout the second set and broke open the tiebreaker set with timely blocks and accurate kills to win the match and the bronze medal.
Russia’s Dabizha, 18 and Gorbunova, 16, finished with a 6-1 record in Larnaka while Germany’s Ittlinger/Weiland both 18, ended the tournament with a 5-3 match record.
As countries, Russia now has three bronze medals in the history of this event, five medals total and five total final four finishes. Germany, on the other hand, didn’t add to their medal-leading total of nine but with their first fourth place finish have a women’s high of 10 final fours.
Playing in front of a standing room only cheering crowd on a neutral Larnaka center court, in the semifinals late Sautrday morning and early afternoon, Lithuania’s Dumbauskaite/Porilaityte went down a set and fought back in another intense struggle, finally overcoming Russia’s Dabizha/Gorbunova, 18-21, 21-16 and 15-12 in 48 minutes with poise and patience.
In the second semifinal, Poland’s Baran/Kociolek started slow and had to come from behind like they did in Friday’s quarterfinal against Brazil, finally out finessing Germany’s game Ittlinger/Weiland in three sets, 18-21, 21-17 and 15-11 in a 53-minute crowd-pleaser. In a match between two familiar teams, Germany started strong to win the first set but couldn’t overcome the precision strokes and lack of mistakes by the Polish duo. In their 58-minute quarterfinal win and their 53-minute semi victory, Poland’s Baran/Kociolek have played in the two longest women’s matches in the tournament.
With the victory, Poland’s Baran/Kociolek became just the third team in the 11-year history of this event to advance to the gold medal match in two consecutive years. Besides Poland’s Baran/Kociolek, the two other two teams who advanced to the final women’s match in consecutive years were Brazil’s Carolina Salgado/Figueiredo Seixas (2003-silver, 2004-silver) and Poland’s Katarzyna Urban/Joanna Wiatr (2004-gold, 2005-silver).
Cyta TV of Larnaka broadcasted the medal matches for both genders live on Saturday evening throughout Cyprus. An international IMG television crew was also on-site to produce special segments from both genders to air on the FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour highlight shows to air worldwide later this summer.
The 2012 FIVB SWATCH Youth World Champions in each gender will be rewarded a “wild card” by the FIVB for a future FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour event during the final months of 2012 or during the 2013 season.
Countries represented in Larnaka for the 11th anniversary of this event were Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, Niger, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Peru, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United States.
After staging three FIVB Challenger events (2006, 2007, 2008) Cyprus has again returned to the world stage as Larnaka, a popular tourist destination, is hosting the 2012 FIVB SWATCH Youth World Championships for players under the age of 19. This year’s 11th annual double-gender event started Wednesday and will conclude Saturday.
An extremely amicable host city for this year’s FIVB SWATCH Youth World Championships, Larnaka is a city of 72,000 located on the Southern Coast of Cyprus and third largest city in the island country in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. More information is available on the event at www.fivb.org.
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